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NIA questions Syed Geelani's close aide over terror funding charges

NIA officials conduct a raid at the residence of Devinder Singh Behl in Jammu on July 30. Photograph: (PTI)

WION Web Team Jammu, New Delhi Jul 30, 2017, 03.19 PM (IST)

India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday searched the residence and office of a close aide of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani suspected of routing funds to separatists from their Pakistan-based handlers.

The raids were a part of the NIA's investigation of the terror funding case against the separatist leaders in Kashmir.

The office and residence of Devinder Singh Behal, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Social Peace Forum (JKSPF) - a constituent of the Geelani-headed Tehreek-e- Hurriayat  - were searched in Jammu, a spokesperson for the NIA said.

"The NIA is investigating his role as a courier as he is suspected to be involved in routing funds to separatist leaders from Pakistan-based handlers," an NIA spokesperson said. He claimed several incriminating documents, four mobile phones, a tablet computer and a few other articles were seized during the searches, and Behal was being questioned.

The JKSPF chief, considered a close associate of Geelani, is also a member of the legal cell of the separatist amalgam led by the Hurriyat hawk, PTI reports.

The anti-terror probe agency says Behal also regularly attends the funeral processions of militants.

The NIA also issued summons to Geelani's younger son Naseem and asked him to appear before it on Wednesday.

Geelani's elder son, Nayeem, who was asked to present himself at the agency's headquarters in New Delhi tomorrow, has been admitted to a hospital in Srinagar after he complained of chest pain, members of the Hurriyat faction said.

He was to be questioned for his role in the terror funding case. Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Pakistan-based Jamaat- ud -Dawa and banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e- Taiba, is also an accused in the case.

A surgeon, Nayeem returned to the Valley in 2010 after spending 11 years in Pakistan and is considered Geelani's heir apparent.

Geelani's son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh has already been arrested by the NIA and has been interrogated.

Geelani's close aides Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and Peer Saifullah were arrested from the Valley last week.

In its FIR, the NIA has also named the two separatist factions led by Geelani and moderate leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the Hizbul Mujahideen and all-woman outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat.

Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesman for the moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Nayeem Khan (of the Hurriyat's Geelani faction) and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias 'Bitta Karate' have also been arrested. All of them have been remanded to 10 days of NIA custody.

The NIA had registered the case on May 30, accusing separatist and secessionist leaders of collaborating with terrorist groups.

The case was registered against the hardline separatists for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means - including hawala channels - for allegedly funding separatist and terrorist activities in the state, and for causing disruption in the Valley by pelting security forces with stones, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India.

The NIA has conducted searches across Kashmir and also in the state of Haryana and in national capital New Delhi.

Electronic devices and valuables worth crores of rupees have been impounded.

It is for the first time since the rise of militancy in the early 1990s that a central probe agency has conducted raids over the funding of terrorist and separatist groups.

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